Be cruel to be kind
Suppose we are sick and need a painful treatment. If we undergo that treatment, it may appear as if we are being cruel to ourselves. But actually we are being kind to ourselves, aren’t we? Because that treatment frees us from the far more cruel pain of the disease. Thus, accepting the cruel-seeming treatment is a form of kindness and avoiding that treatment is a form of cruelty.
The same principle of “be cruel to be kind” applies to our spiritual life too. All of us are spiritual beings, souls, who are afflicted by the disease of amnesia. We have forgotten our real identity and our real life of immortal love with Krishna.
For curing our amnesia, the necessary treatment is the practice of cultivating remembrance of Krishna. This treatment revives our obscured spiritual memory and eventually restores us to our healthy state of eternal blissful existence. Moreover, remembrance of Krishna brings peace and joy even in this life. But, sometimes due to the unsteady and arbitrary feelings of our mind, Krishna consciousness may seem painful. At such times, if we give up the treatment, we will end up being cruel to ourselves. Why? Because we will unnecessarilysubject ourselves to continued suffering in the distressful cycle of birth and death – and that will be the ultimate self-inflicted cruelty.
Thankfully, we don’t have to be cruel to ourselves. We can contemplate the disease metaphor and the Bhagavad-gita’s guarantee (18.37) that what tastes like poison in the beginning will taste like nectar in the end and will lead to spiritual illumination. By thus reinforcing our conviction about the necessity to “be cruel to be kind,” we can practice Krishna consciousness unflinchingly. Thereby we will move ourselves on the path to eternal happiness – and that is the best way to be kind to ourselves.
“That which in the beginning may be just like poison but at the end is just like nectar and which awakens one to self-realization is said to be happiness in the mode of goodness.”